Supporting a Free Palestine Will Free Us All

Up and down the country hundreds of thousands of us are joining the chant ‘from the river to the sea Palestine will be free’. Unsurprisingly from a government that has spent the last ten years trying to shut down any support for Palestine by labelling it anti-Semitic, Suella Braverman has made clear she wants this chant interpreted as a criminal offence by police in England and Wales. Indeed, she and others are insinuating that flying the Palestinian flag alone is an act of terrorism, and incitement to violence against Israeli civilians. 

But this is a trick, and we will not fall for it. When we say ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’, we are not promoting the ethnic cleansing of Israel. Just as flying the Palestinian flag does not mean we condone the killing of Israeli civilians. We will not accept the terms of the debate set by an occupying force, supported by enabling Western states and parroted by a compliant media. We, the hundreds of thousands of us who will continue to stand with the people of Palestine, can read the room and we know that the only flag representing a state whose clear objectives are to ethnically cleanse a people – is the Israeli flag. 

Time and again the Israeli state has tried to confuse the narrative. When the Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was murdered by a sniper whilst reporting in 2022, the Israeli army first claimed she was shot by Palestinians, before finally admitting she was killed by an Israeli soldier

It’s hard to make sense of the figures we’re seeing, but over 7,000 Palestinian civilians have been murdered in Gaza over the past 3 weeks, with over 100 killed in the West Bank. And yet every single time we demand an end to the occupation – an occupation that has squeezed the life out of any political possibility for peace – or when we demand an end to the siege of Gaza — a siege that has squeezed the life out of any meaningful possibility of existence — or indeed when we demand a ceasefire – the bare minimum that we should be asking for in the face of this genocide -every time we ask for this we are told to first condemn Hamas. 

What is the logic behind this twisted lack of empathy, in the face of such a well-documented act of ethnic cleansing? The logic is that in the eyes of the so-called civilised nations in which we live, Palestinians do not have the right to resist. It means that Palestinians can be given a trickle of aid now and again, and can receive our occasional thoughts and prayers, but only when they play the part of the perfect defenceless victim. The perfect defenceless victim which we, the West and historic colonial power, can swoop in and save. Yes, we need to show up for Palestine today, yes we need to support the work of organisations such as Medical Aid for Palestinians, who are doing vital firefighting work against the tsunami of slaughters, but no, Palestinians do not need us to save them, they are saving themselves. And indeed their liberation will save us all. 

An activist in Egypt recently posted on social media ‘We are not freeing Palestine. Palestine is freeing us. Protests are completely banned in Egypt. It’s thanks to the people of Palestine and Gaza that we’re able to taste this bit of freedom. We owe them everything. Everything.” 

We are in the fortunate position that protests are not banned in Scotland, though we shouldn’t take this for granted — just look at France where Palestinian protests have been made illegal and Westminster which has recently passed a draconian set of anti-protest laws. And yet here too, protesting in solidarity with Palestine is freeing us. Palestinians are teaching us what it means to see the majority of your homeland taken from you over the past 75 years and yet still believe in the right of return. They are teaching us what it means to live under military occupation for 56 years and yet still believe in the possibility of peace. And they are teaching us what it’s like to live through four wars in the space of ten years, and still call Gaza home with pride. There is an Arabic word sumuud which means steadfastness, perseverance, patience and resolve, staying put, and being rooted. Palestinians are teaching us the meaning of sumuud.  

Palestinian resistance, in other words, needs to be defined as terrorism in the eyes of the Israeli state, because it is too powerful not to. When the 9 year old Ahed Tamimi raised her fist at an Israeli soldier in defiance, later slapping a heavily armed soldier at the age of 16, that was resistance. But she was labelled a terrorist and sent to prison because her power lies in shaming Israel for being the colonial power that it is. 

In 2018 when thousands of Gazans staged the March of Return, peacefully approaching the separation fence that traps 2.2 million people in a land mass the size of the Black Isle, that was resistance — but they were shot at with live ammunition and killed in their hundreds because they were exposing the state of Israel for what it is, an apartheid regime breaking international law. 

And when the poet Dareen Tatour posted a poem on social media describing the importance of Palestinian self-determination, that was resistance, but she was arrested because she was exposing the very myth that the Israeli state was founded on — that it is supposedly a land without a people, for a people without a land. 

Don’t forget that Nelson Mandela, now the darling of the West and whose book ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ is a must-see on all liberal politician’s bookshelves, was himself labelled a terrorist in the heydey of South Africa’s apartheid regime, and when the African National Congress was staging their own resistance to it.

But despite these restrictions, and more, Palestinians continue to resist and will do so until they are free. That is what is meant by the phrase: ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’. It means that all people who live in the land that lies between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea will be free, regardless of their state, faith, nationality, sexuality, gender or world view. Indeed, Ahed Tamimi, who became a figure of Palestinian resistance at the age of 9, says: “We should extend our struggles to one another in order to end all the world’s injustices.” 

This is why we stand for the people of Palestine. Not just because the genocide we are watching unfold today is truly the darkest hour this century has faced, but because their very reason for resistance — 75 years of colonial rule — is a poison that still infects the rest of the world, infects us, and is one from which we all need to be freed. 

No better is this made clear than in the powerful statement issued by the Teachers & Employees of Birzeit University in Ramallah last week. They say: 

“2023 will be recorded historically as the year that Palestinians stood boldly in the face of colonial fascism and screamed in defence of their homes, humanity and life. Palestinians as a people have endured over a century of settler colonial violence. We have thrived as a people and shall continue to do so. We do not need to speak of our right to resist, for it is not a right, but a way of being and survival for Palestinians. […] Resistance in all of its manifestations and forms does not need the pre-approval of static international laws and code. The oppressed do not need to claim authority over their own oppression, the ongoing events of history -our history – is what allows us this authority. […] It is our duty to record this moment not as its victim, but as the people who will remember, record, survive and resist it.”

This is why we will fly the Palestinian flag high and this is why we will continue to shout, alongside our Palestinian brothers and sisters: ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!’. 


Comments (21)

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  1. Mr Peter Breingan says:

    World peace will be able to grow with Palestinian freedom

  2. SteveH says:

    None of you who protest mention anything about the Iranians. Do you think the Iranians who finance Hamas would let any kind of peace deal stand?

    Its not out of any kind of social justice thinking they finance Hamas. Its out of sheer geopolitical self-interest.

    You live in a dream world.

    1. Wul says:

      Every single man-made object, policy, law, rights and freedoms that exist around you, were once just a dream in someone’s head.

      Give me dreams over cynical, hopeless acceptance of the status quo every time.

    2. Oded Yinon says:

      “….the Iranians who finance Hamas…”

      errr SteveH what about these guys?

      or this from The Telegraph this year

      “Despite being formally designated a terrorist organisation by Israel, the US and much of the West, Mr Netanyahu has largely ignored military provocation from the group since the last major Israeli ground incursion of 2014, and has simultaneously allowed huge sums of cash to flow into Gaza.

      The money is said to have come in suitcases via Qatar, where Hamas’s political leadership is based, but also via trade with Israel that has boomed in recent years as tens of thousands of cross-border work permits have been issued to Gazans.

      Although careful in public, in early 2019 Mr Netanyahu was quoted as saying behind closed doors that those who opposed a two-state solution should support the transfer of funds to Gaza, because it worked against Palestinian unity, according to the Times of Israel”

  3. Craig Fraser says:

    There are many people of the Jewish faith in Israel and around the world that are disgusted by the way the Zionist, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, genocidal, settler colonising Israeli government has and continues to act with unaccountable impunity. If this conflict were anywhere else in the world UN peacekeepers would be in place and delivering much needed aid to a brutalised people. But this is Israel and they can do anything they want without any redress. I live in Cromarty on the Black Isle also the Gaza Strip is more or less the size of the Isle of Wight and is a good comparitor. I ask people how would you feel if you lived with 2.2million people of the Isle of Wight and you had no infrastructure, schools, hospitals, intermittent water, and energy supply and Portsmouth/Southampton had blockaded you for years and assassinate your children on a regular basis? What would you do. It ends the conversation. Additionally regarding the heinous acts of brutality perpetrated against the Palestinian children in contravention of the UNCRC, people say what’s the UNCRC? It is an international legally binding obligation to protect children that is all children irrespective of their religion or where they live. Israel ratified the UNCRC on 18/07/2005. The UNCRC came into force in the UK on 15/01/1992. Israeli Zionist gov’t has no moral value for these acts. Zionists what the Palestinian land they do not want the Palestinian people who have been there for thousands of years. Once the Israeli Zionist apartheid gov’t have removed the Palestinian population from Palestine they will remove the Palestinians living in Israel.

    1. SleepingDog says:

      @Craig Fraser, there is one rogue state, a serial offender in human rights violations and a champion of Israel, which has not ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (it has paused, not outlawed execution of minors; has jurisdictions where children have been forced to marry their rapists; separated migrant children from their parents and placed them in detention; and withdrawn from the UN Human Rights Council):

      1. Craig Fraser says:

        Now that wouldn’t be the US would it? As an aside the UNCRC came into force in the UK on 15/01/1992. How many children in conflict zones have been killed by UK munitions. I do not understand why the UN doesn’t call for sanctions on countries that violate the UNCRC

  4. John Learmonth says:

    Disgraceful article, absolutely disgraceful.
    You Jews haters of the so called ‘progressive left’ need to take a long hard look at yourselves.
    Palestine will be free?
    What under Islamic theocratic rule where women are treated as Second class citizens, gays are thrown off roof tops and ‘left wing voices are murdered.
    Unfortunately democracy/Liberal values and Islam are not compatible, take your sides folks. I know which side I’m on……

    1. Wul says:

      Interesting correlation between your comments and SteveH above. Entering the discussion only to “other” those who’s views may differ from your own:
      ” You Jew haters…”
      “…so called progressive left…”
      “…long, hard look at yourselves..”
      “…take your sides folks…”
      “…I know which side I’m on…”

      And SteveH:
      “…None of you…”
      “Do you think…”
      “You live in dream world”

      1. John Learmonth says:

        Hi Wul,

        I’m not StevieH (whoever he is) just as I’m sure numbers man or Sleeping Dog aren’t you. (whoever they are and whoever you are as you don’t post like most people under your actual name, can I ask why you choose to do this?)
        Just pointing out the Jew hatred of the progressive left whilst I still can. SORRY!

    2. Bill says:

      As I have written in other posts, it is possible to support Palestinians without hating Jews. Look in the other articles, particularly at the speech by Gerald Kaufman. He is certainly very critical of the Israeli government, and supportive of Palestinians – and he was a self confessed Zionist.
      He also stated that Hamas was a very nasty organisation – but that it had been democratically elected. What Hamas did was thoroughly dreadful and those involved deserve to be punished. However 7000 dead women, children and others is nothing more than a war crime. Cutting off water and electricity was deemed a war crime when Russia did this in Ukraine – Israel should be judged by the same standard. To see this in a binary fashion and to rant and use emotional epithets towards people that you do not know does not help the situation nor contribute in a meaningful way to a serious debate


      1. Craig Fraser says:

        My very close friend Avigail Abarbanel is Israeli by birth first language is Hebrew. Avigail wrote the book Beyond Tribal Loyalties which is about people of the Jewish faith becoming Palestinian peace activists. Avigail renounced her Israeli citizenship about 20 years ago due to the Zionists that had/have taken over the Israeli government. Support for the Palestinian people especially their children does not and never will make someone anti-Semitic it makes you humane. There are religious fundamentalists on both sides of this issue, the moderates on both sides need to be listened to. The settler colonisation of Palestine has to stop, but Zionists will never stop. I see orthodox Jews such as the Torah Jews burning the Israeli flag all is not well in Israel. Why don’t people try unconditional love instead of conditional hate.

      2. John Learmonth says:

        Hamas was indeed democratically elected, unfortunately once they came to power they then proceeded to murder their political opponents, throwing them off high rise buildings and putting an end to democracy in Gaza.
        As I say time to take sides… you side with a Liberal democratic society where the rights of women/LGBT not to mention the 1/3 of the population who are Arab are fully respected or do you side with theocratic fundamentalism. Odd that I should be asking this question on a ‘progressive left wing blog’ who should side with the former rather than the latter but unfortunately the former are Jews and the left (despite being a creation of Jewish intellectuals) have always had a problem with Jewish people. Personally I blame Marx’s treatise ‘The Jewish Question’ where (assuming you haven’t read it) he castigated the ‘Jews for enabling capitalism and been money obsessed (the usual nti-semitic tropes)’ despite himself been of Jewish ancestry
        Your choice as thankfully you live in a free society unlike the people in the Muslim world unless your one of those lucky Arabs who have Israeli citizenship who are currently signing up in droves for the IDF to defend themselves from Hamas. They know who the enemy is….and it ain’t the Jews.

        1. SleepingDog says:

          @John Learmonth, you seem to be deeply confused about the nature of Orthodox Judaism (disproportionately influential in Israeli politics) if you imagine they are a bunch of woke feminist liberals. Of course, they tend to find common ground with the white supremacist antiabortion antigay Christian right in the USA. At least until Armageddon. You are defending an apartheid state which denies political representation to an unlawfully occupied and dispossessed section of its population, and by recent reports intimidates and arrests Palestinians who do have the vote from expressing nonviolent opinions. While its far-right government attempts to dismantle remaining safeguards against abuses of executive power. Not really a democracy, then, but joining the constitutional theocracies club of the British Empire and Iran.

        2. Oded Yinon says:

          “Your choice as thankfully you live in a free society unlike the people in the Muslim world unless your one of those lucky Arabs who have Israeli citizenship”

          A 2022 report from Amnesty International stated “Israel’s continuing oppressive and discriminatory system of governing Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) constituted a system of apartheid, and Israeli officials committed the crime of apartheid under international law.”

          Doesn’t sound like “those lucky Arabs” are as lucky as you seem to suggest.

    3. D.M. Malone says:

      Have you read the article above in its entirety, Mr. Learmouth?
      Consider, when using the term “Jew haters”, that there are many people of the Judaical faith who are part of the progressive left and or are against the ethnic cleansing happening in Gaza. Israel is run by a far right government whose policies and military manoeuvres are responsible for the deaths of both Palestinian and Israeli civilians.
      Free Palestine.

    4. Craig Fraser says:

      People who support the Palestinian people especially their children are not Jew haters as you claim. I have issues with Zionists I looked up the definitions of Zionism/Zionists it is not pleasant. I’m a humanitarian and grieve for all persecuted peoples. Human society should be better than this.

    5. Oded Yinon says:

      “Jew haters”…you mean like these guys?

      “democracy/Liberal values”

      A UN Report from 2022 stated that “Israel’s occupation of Palestinian Territory is ‘apartheid’”

  5. SleepingDog says:

    Perhaps the most informed, sober and weighty opinion I’ve heard comes from Navi Pillay, chair of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, who makes a number of telling points in this broadcast:

    The Commission (opposed by Israel and USA) has the backing of the UN General Assembly. Navi Pillay grew up in apartheid South Africa and views the unlawful Israeli occupation as also enforcing apartheid. She notes how unreliable and deceitful the Israelis have been during the Commission’s investigation of war etc crimes by all parties, and that even today Israel are blocking the Commission’s investigation of crimes against Israelis such as in the recent Hamas attack, giving Israeli victims the right to testify to the world. As she simply asks, if the Israelis have nothing to hide, why not let the impartial Committee do its work? For this, Navi Pillay and even the UN Secretary General António Guterres have been smeared as anti-semites by Israeli ministers and officials, a charge which seems to require no substantiation and an avoidance of regarding the facts and international law.

  6. Madeline Usher says:

    Don’t know where to start with this mess of an article.

    Talks about “all people who live in the land that lies between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea will be free, regardless of their state, faith, nationality, sexuality, gender or world view” while Hamas – those well known secular liberals – control huge areas and enjoy popular support.

    The rallying call “from the river to the sea” at the end is nauseating.

  7. Satan says:

    Jordan might want the rest of Jordan back. It is called Jordan for a reason. Ditto the Golan Heights/Syria. Gaza needs to be fully incorporated into Israel or maybe Egypt if they are unlucky, but I can’t see any of that happening for quite some time.

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